Drug charges can have a major negative impact on your reputation and livelihood. The stigma associated with illicit drugs can follow you around for years to come, affecting future job prospects and personal relationships.

If you are facing charges of transporting a controlled substance in the San Diego area, it is important to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney right away. An experienced defense attorney like Peter Blair can explore your unique situation and determine the best defense strategy. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact The Law Office of Peter Blair online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.

Legal Definitions

The U.S. Controlled Substances Act establishes the status of illegal substances and narcotic drugs. Under this act, a number of substances and compounds are subject to regulation by the U.S. government, which can control the manufacturing, possession, and use of the drugs. The Controlled Substances Act covers a wide range of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, PCP, morphine, and peyote, among others.

California Health and Safety Code 11352 outlaws a number of acts associated with controlled substances, including:

  • Transporting a controlled substance
  • Importing a controlled substance into the state of California
  • Selling a controlled substance, which includes non-monetary transactions like trading drugs for benefits or favors
  • Furnishing a controlled substance to someone, whether for money or another purpose
  • Administering a controlled substance, whether by directly injecting it into another person or causing them to consume it in some other way
  • Giving away a controlled substance

Health and Safety Code 11352 also prohibits offering or attempting to do any of the aforementioned things; that is, you do not have to successfully transport or sell the substance to face drug charges of some sort, so long as you offered or tried to do so.

People v. Meza (1995) stated that “transportation of a controlled substance is established by carrying or conveying a usable quantity of a controlled substance with knowledge of its presence and illegal character.” Therefore, being charged with transportation of a controlled substance does not require any certain distance or method of transportation. Even if the distance is short, and even if the drugs are transported on foot, you could face transportation charges.

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Under Health and Safety Code 11352, transporting a controlled substance is a felony, punishable by up to $20,000 in fines and (1) probation and up to one year in county jail or (2) three, four, or five years in county jail.

The penalties for transporting a controlled substance are markedly more severe than those for simple possession. In People v. Emmal (1998), the opinion states “…the increased penalty provided for transportation is intended to discourage sales and purchases; to reduce the incidents of traffic accidents caused by those who might use and be impaired by a controlled substance during its transportation; and to inhibit the use of controlled substances in general by making it difficult to distribute and obtain them.”

While the controlled substance does not have to move a certain distance to constitute “transportation,” moving longer distances will result in stiffer penalties. Transporting a controlled substance across more than two county lines can result in up to 3, 6, or 9 years in jail, plus a fine of up to $20,000.

California has certain drug diversion programs in place to allow non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of jail time. Under Proposition 36 and Penal Code 1000, non-violent offenders charged with simple possession can choose to participate in treatment or rehabilitation rather than spend time in prison.

It is important to note that drug diversion programs are not available to those convicted of selling or transporting a controlled substance. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney might be able to secure a plea bargain down to simple possession, allowing you to participate in a drug diversion program.

Legal Defenses

There are several legal defenses against charges of drug transportation. Some acceptable legal defenses include:

  • Police misconduct, such as failure to read Miranda rights, planting evidence, use of excessive force, or lack of probable cause
  • Violation of search and seizure laws
  • Entrapment, meaning you only transported a controlled substance because you were lured or coerced into doing so by a law enforcement officer. Entrapment only applies when the police persuade someone to commit a crime he or she would not otherwise commit. (It does not apply in situations where an undercover police officer simply suggests or offers to engage in a crime; it only counts as entrapment when a reasonable person would have a hard time refusing.)
  • Mistaken identity, which most often applies when there was no constructive (i.e. physical) possession. In other words, the police have to assume or guess who the drugs belonged to, which can lead to mistaken identities.
  • Lack of knowledge, meaning you were unaware of the drug’s presence or were unaware of the substances criminal nature. A lack of knowledge defense often applies when a friend, roommate, or someone else close by is engaged in criminal activity without your knowledge.
  • Lack of intent, meaning you never intended to use, sell, or transport the substance, even if you offered to do so. Sometimes an offer is made out of fear or coercion, as a joke, or with full intention to alert the authorities. If you can prove you never intended to transport the controlled substance, you could benefit from a lack of intent defense.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

When dealing with criminal charges, the sooner you act, the better. Your best chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether comes with being proactive and prepared. If you are facing charges of transportation of a controlled substance, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Mr. Blair understands that you are more than the charges leveled against you, and he will work to develop a sound defense strategy that works for your unique situation.

Don’t let these charges define you. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact The Law Office of Peter Blair online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.